Race over Empire

Racism and U.S. Imperialism, 1865-1900

By Eric T. L. Love

268 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 9 illus., 2 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5565-2
    Published: November 2004
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7591-9
    Published: October 2005
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7136-7
    Published: October 2005

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Generations of historians have maintained that in the last decade of the nineteenth century white-supremacist racial ideologies such as Anglo-Saxonism, social Darwinism, benevolent assimilation, and the concept of the "white man's burden" drove American imperialist ventures in the nonwhite world. In Race over Empire, Eric T. L. Love contests this view and argues that racism had nearly the opposite effect.

From President Grant's attempt to acquire the Dominican Republic in 1870 to the annexations of Hawaii and the Philippines in 1898, Love demonstrates that the imperialists' relationship with the racist ideologies of the era was antagonistic, not harmonious. In a period marked by Jim Crow, lynching, Chinese exclusion, and immigration restriction, Love argues, no pragmatic politician wanted to place nonwhites at the center of an already controversial project by invoking the concept of the "white man's burden." Furthermore, convictions that defined "whiteness" raised great obstacles to imperialist ambitions, particularly when expansionists entered the tropical zone. In lands thought to be too hot for "white blood," white Americans could never be the main beneficiaries of empire.

What emerges from Love's analysis is a critical reinterpretation of the complex interactions between politics, race, labor, immigration, and foreign relations at the dawn of the American century.

About the Author

Eric T. L. Love is associate professor of history at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
For more information about Eric T. L. Love, visit the Author Page.


"Love has forcefully captured the rough and tumble world of Washington politics. . . . Convincingly demonstrates that imperialists consciously remained silent on race when pitching annexation."--Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

"A brief, clearly argued, thesis-driven study. . . . [A] competent work."--American Historical Review

"Well-written and accessible. . . . Written in an engaging, fluid prose, and punctured by useful, often lucid insights, [Love's account] is certainly a worthwhile read."--Itinerario

"Both interesting and well documented. . . . Presents alternative ways of looking at racism and imperialism. When one thinks of imperialism, one tends to believe that racism actually abetted it. Love takes the contrary view, but at the same time, he emphasizes that many imperialists were racists and does an excellent job of proving it."--The Historian

"With originality, imagination, and superb research, Eric Love gives us one of the most important contributions in years to our understanding of American expansion into the Caribbean, Hawaii, and the Philippines. He rightly radically corrects the central role played by race, and finally puts Darwinism in its proper place, in a narrative that allows us to understand more clearly and accurately the crucial origins of modern U.S. foreign policy."--Walter LaFeber, Andrew and James Tisch University Professor, Cornell University

"This is a provocative, well-written, and solidly researched reassessment of the role of race and racism in the development of late nineteenth-century U.S. imperialism. Love's nuanced treatment of why, how, and with what consequences various white racial ideologies impeded and constrained the imperial urge is the most fully realized and most cogent treatment of this argument that I have read."--Waldo E. Martin Jr., University of California, Berkeley